Trees Are For "Real" Cats
Cheetah sightings in Welgevonden are common and often provide for a highlight during game drives.
These elegant cats with the distinctive teardrop markings on their faces are not disturbed by game viewers or human voices, making for amazing sightings. While they are threatened by other predators like, Leopard and Hyena they are very successful parents. In Welgevonden we have seen mothers with as many as five cubs and one female successfully raising four cubs to sub-adulthood.
This mother had successfully rasied a first litter and her second litter were only a few weeks old when we first spotted them. While the mother is constantly aware and on the outlook for other predators the little ones are blissfully ignorant, climbing over each other , chasing the mothers tail and getting into trees, not thinking how they will get down. We watched these two little guys for quite some time figuring out how to get down from partly fallen Combretum trunk about one meter off the ground.
While the nails of young Cheetah are still sharp and thin it allows them to climb trees more easily than their older counterparts. It is not uncommon for cheetahs to have "playing trees" as they get older. Here they sharpen their nails, sent mark and sometimes get into the tree to have a better view of the landscape.
While Cheetah are taxomomically categorised into the Cat family (Felidae), they are placed in a different genius to that of Lions and Leopards who are categorised as Panthera.
There are a number of physical characteristics that distinguish them and as a result they are placed in a separate genus called Acinonyx and species jubatus. The first distinguisher is that they do not roar or meow like other cats but make whistling or chirping calls like a bird. This is mainly due to the difference in the voice boxes structure of Cheetah. In addition they also do not have retractable nails like other cats. The unsheathed nails help them to get a better grip when running down prey and when taking sharp turns.